Archive for June 18, 2009

Celebrating my 49th birthday – Mission Update

Posted in Mission Updates 2009 on June 18, 2009 by filerofish

New ImageBy God’s grace I will be celebrating my 49th birthday tomorrow. I was born in 1960 at the tail end of what has been called the “Baby Boom Generation” – I identify more with the seventies. The world was in the middle of a Cold War and the Vietnam conflict (1957-1975) was raging on. It would eventually claim the lives of 3 to 4 million Vietnamese, 1.5 to 2 million Laotians and Cambodians, and 58,159 U.S. soldiers.

The sixties was one of the most revolutionary and momentous decades in all of history.  Time magazine selected the Baby Boom Generation as its 1966 “Man of the Year.” Never before “had youth been so idealized as they were at this moment” (Claire Raines). It was a time of dramatic social change.

A sampling of the events that shaped this generation would include the assassination of JFK, Robert Kennedy, Malcolm X, and Martin Luther King, Jr.; political unrest, the walk on the moon, risk of the draft into the Vietnam War, anti-war protests, social experimentation, sexual “revolution,” Roe V. Wade, drug experimentation, the civil rights movement, the environmental movement, the women’s movement, protests and riots; Woodstock, mainstream rock from the Beatles to Jimi Hendrix. Dressing in mod clothes and transistor radios also became popular.

In Mexico, the sixties ushered in the student protests and the rise of leftist movements, which coincided with political unrest in many other countries. These were influenced by reports and images of events taking place in the United States and France. In 1968, the same year that the Olympic games would be celebrated in Mexico, students, teachers, intellectuals and average citizens in Mexico City protested against the authoritarian regime of Gustavo Díaz Ordaz. On October 2, 1968, hundreds of protesters and innocent bystanders were killed during the Tlatelolco Massacre in Mexico City.

Mexican youth living in major metropolitan areas were exposed to American rock music, and many of them became involved in the counterculture. The three-day Avándaro festival (1971), was the Mexican version of Woodstock. It caused such a scandal that the authorities prohibited rock performances for the rest of the decade. As a result, anything remotely associated with the counter-culture was censured. This proved to be an extremely repressive era in Mexican history. Even most forms of religious broadcasting were banned from the public airwaves.

In 1967, a major fulfillment in God’s prophetic timetable took place. During the Six-Day War Israel launched a preemptive strike against Egypt, Syria and Jordan, who had massed troops close to Israeli borders and blocked Israel’s access to the Red Sea. Israel won a decisive victory in which it re-captured the east Jerusalem and liberated the Temple Mount. This measure reignited international controversy over the final status of Jerusalem that is ongoing.

Nearly half of the Baby Boom generation dropped out of formal religion and began a search of alternative spirituality. The second half of the twentieth century saw the invasion of the Eastern cults in America.

In 1960 Pentecostal teachings spilled over into historic denominations and the Charismatic Movement was born (1960 for Protestants, 1967 for Roman Catholics) Harald Bredesen, a Lutheran minister, was the first to coined the term in 1962. I met Bredesen in person once during a conference in Cabo San Lucas and can attest to the fact that he had a remarkable ability to be very persuasive.

The origin of the Charismatic Movement is attributed to Father Dennis Bennett, an Episcopal priest. His book Nine O’Clock in the Morning gives a personal account of this period. Who would have guessed that charismatics would become the second largest branch of Christianity after the Roman Catholic Church. By the year 2000 the Charismatic Movement numbered 176 million, neocharismatics 295 million and Pentecostals 66 million). They are 27 percent of all Christians. Charismatics are growing at the rate of 9 million per year making the total adherents around 618 million by 2009. Wow!

The Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) completed their process of denominational “restructuring”, thus galvanizing the division between Disciples and the Independent Christian Churches and Churches of Christ. In the years that followed, many of the Independent Christian Church Congregations requested formal withdrawal from the yearbook.  The Consultation on Church Union (COCU) was founded in 1962 to negotiate a merger between its ten member denominations (African Methodist Episcopal Church,  African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church, Christian Church [Disciples of Christ], Christian Methodist Episcopal Church, The Episcopal Church [TEC], International Council of Community Churches, Moravian Church Northern Province, Presbyterian Church [USA], United Church of Christ, and the United Methodist Church), but was overwhelmingly rejected when it was proposed in 1969. As a result the Churches Uniting in Christ (CUIC) was inaugurated on January 20, 2002. CUIC is not a merger, but rather an intercommunion agreement whereby each member recognizes the others as part of the true church, and recognizes its rites (baptism, communion) as valid.

The Independent Christian Churches/Churches of Christ and Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) parted ways over issues regarding liberal theology and denominational structure within the Disciples of Christ. Ironically, many of these same issues are resurfacing today within the ranks of the Independent Christian Churches/Churches of Christ through the “seeker-sensitive”/mega church and emergent church movements. The once vibrant direct-support missionary movement is rapidly fading away and only those “agencies” that fully subscribe to the centralized mega-church agenda remain. The remnant is shrinking and those missionaries who continue to hold to the Restoration plea are vastly outnumbered by a new breed of faith-only/ ecumenical neo-evangelicals.

A half century after the introduction of New Testament Christianity in Sonora, Sinaloa and Baja California, our movement has to start all over again. The following practices are common, but they contradict the New Testament revelation:

  1. Adoption of the fourth-century model of church leadership – the monarchical bishop –  in which we find preachers calling themselves THE “pastor” of the church, usually at the expense of a Biblical model of qualified eldership.
  2. The formation of a extraecclesiastical governing body with jurisdiction over the local autonomous churches of Christ/ Christian churches.
  3. The written affirmation of doctrinal beliefs that is intended to be used  as a de facto CREED .
  4. The exclusion of certain individuals and/or congregations based on the general consensus of the group.
  5. Lording it over the flock of Christ

During these past few years, I have been search for God’s will for my life. I have repeatedly spent time in agonizing prayer pleading with Him to place me exactly where He wants me to be. After all, I want to be where He can use me the most for His glory and for the growth of His kingdom. I have knocked on many doors on both sides of the border. Some of them looked like they would open but were then slammed shut in my face. I must confess that I don’t have a clue of what is happening other than God seems like He wants me to stay put for now.

In case of an emergency, I don’t have anywhere to go or anyone to turn to. I am pretty much stuck with whatever circumstances come my way.

Tomorrow is my 49th birthday, and I am deeply concerned for the future of the church of Jesus Christ on either side of the boarder, and also for the future of my family. Nevertheless, God is still on his throne and prayer does change things. Please keep these matters in prayer.


Philip Watkinson